Tough new legislation aimed at protecting shark populations within the Bahamas archipelago has been approved.
The new law which bans sharking fishing as well as prohibiting the sale, export or import of shark products effectively makes the island chain's territorial waters a 243,000 sq.mile shark sanctuary.
Long-line fishing was banned in the area in 1993 which has helped protect the 40 species of shark recorded in Bahamian waters, but shark fishing was still legal through other methods.
The government acted to tighten up legislation after protests from environmental groups when in 2010 a local seafood company announced it planned to export shark fins and meat to Hong Kong.
The ban has been welcomed by environmentalists who point to the important role in ecosystems played by sharks.
Sharks are considered at risk worldwide due to demand for their fins in Chinese cooking with estimates of as many as 73 million being killed each year with demand still rising. The Bahamas now join Honduras, the Maldives and Palau in banning shark fishing.
At almost the same time Chile has pushed through new legislation banning the practice of shark finning within its territorial waters. The new law does not prevent shark fishing, but makes it a legal requirement to land all shark whole. It also prohibits detached fins on any vessel, or transferring them between ships.
It is hoped the new rules will mean easier recording of species and numbers landed while reducing the number of sharks caught before each ship's weight limit is reached.
Currently most shark fisheries throw back the often still living fish once the fins have been removed.
Chilean waters are home to 30 species of shark including the Blue shark (Prionace glauca) and the Short-finned mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) both of which are favoured catches while being listed as 'near threatened' and 'vulnerable' on the IUCN red list of endangered species.
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